At Cleveland area-based Johnson Hearing Aid, we believe that the more you know about hearing loss, the better you can cope with changes to your hearing.
Hearing loss is more prevalent than you may think. According to the Marke Trak Survey (2004), an estimated 31.5 million people in the US have hearing difficulty. That breaks down into:
- 3 in 10 people over the age of 60
- 1 in 6 people aged 41-59
- 1 in 14 people aged 29-40
- at least 1.4 million children under 18 (3 in 1,000 infants are born with serious to profound hearing loss)
Signs of hearing loss can emerge slowly and be hard to notice or they can feel very dramatic. Here's a few ways to recognize potential hearing loss:
- require frequent repetition.
- have difficulty following conversations involving more than 2 people.
- think that other people sound muffled or like they're mumbling.
- have difficulty hearing in noisy situations, like conferences, restaurants, malls, or crowded meeting rooms.
- have trouble hearing children and women.
- have your TV or radio turned up to a high volume.
- answer or respond inappropriately in conversations.
- have ringing in your ears.
- read lips or more intently watch people's faces when they speak with you.
- feel stressed out from straining to hear what others are saying
- feel annoyed at other people because you can't hear or understand them
- feel embarrassed to meet new people or from misunderstanding what others are saying
- feel nervous about trying to hear and understand
- withdraw from social situations that you once enjoyed because of difficulty hearing
- have a family history of hearing loss
- take medications that can harm the hearing system (ototoxic drugs)
- have diabetes, heart, circulation or thyroid problems
- have been exposed to very loud sounds over a long period or single exposure to explosive noise
There are two main types of hearing loss - conductive and sensorineural. A combination of both is considered mixed hearing loss. Treatment options and the impact of such treatment vary for the different types of hearing loss. Unilateral hearing loss is a type of hearing impairment that affects one ear; bilateral hearing loss affects both.
Conductive hearing loss is caused by any condition or disease that blocks or impedes the conveyance of sound through the middle ear. The result is a reduction in the sound intensity (loudness) that reaches the cochlea. Generally, the cause of conductive hearing loss can be treated with a complete or partial improvement in hearing.
Sensorineural hearing loss, which is the most common form of hearing loss, results from inner ear or auditory nerve dysfunction and is more common in older adults. Often, the cause cannot be determined. It is typically irreversible and permanent. It, too, reduces the intensity of sound, but it might also result in a lack of clarity even when sounds, particularly speech, are loud enough. The treatment for sensorineural hearing loss is amplification through hearing aids.
A mixed hearing loss is a combination of a conductive and a sensorineural hearing loss. Hearing aids can be beneficial for persons with a mixed hearing loss, but caution should be exercised.
Main causes of hearing loss are:
- excessive noise (loud music, heavy machinery, etc.)
- injury to the ear or head
- birth defects or genetics
- ototoxic reactions to drugs or cancer treatment